Sunday, July 27, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors

Just finished an excellent book about China - Smoke and Mirrors by Pallavi Aiyer (daughter of ToI columnist Swaminathan Aiyer). The author was correspondent for Hindu and Indian Express in China from 2002 to 2007, and gives first hand account of China from Indian eyes. Book covers various issues in China ranging from the the political situation to food and religion. What I really liked about the book is, it gives balanced account of all issues.

What I wanted to write in this blog is not a review of the book, but rather about the dearth of such books or coverage of such articles in Indian media. Hardly ever do we get to read about the international news. Most of the news in newspapers are borrowed from international news agencies like Reuters and AP. And on TV, of course, one cannot expect news cum entertainment channels to cover such news, so one has to watch BBC or CNN. All these news sources are of excellent quality and especially BBC shows how good and diverse journalism could be.

But these sources mostly provide western point of view for news and thus results in view of the world through western eyes. So for articles on Indian point of view, the only source is newspapers like Indian Express and Hindu ( precisely two newspapers the author worked for). And there is no news channel (NDTV to a certain extent) which gives in depth coverage of news. Other media just resorts to pandering with sensationalising news(?). In short, Indian media, barring few exceptions mentioned, is useless for getting quality news.

Are Indian media houses not interested in sending correspondents outside India ( In the book, author has mentioned that in China there were only 3 Indian journalists based in China, compared to 10-15 from each European country) or is it that people don't like it?. Media instead promotes stuff which is no way related to their core job. e.g. Times has started Teach India Campaign. The objectives and the outcome of the campaign can be noble, but my views about Times Group are not particularly good, especially the kind of content they provide in their newspaper. What I feel is that such campaign are just to improve the image of the group, which has been sullied by their news quality. What happened to their previous hoopla, Lead India? It was nothing more than a PR exercise and nothing substantial came out of it.

It is high time that Indian media has to mature and focus on providing quality content rather than focusing on peripheral issues. We need more books and articles like Smoke and Mirror.

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